Posted in Chronic illnesses, Fibromyaloga, rheumatoid arthritis

To disclose or not to disclose


One of hardest things I have had to come to terms with is not my diagnoses but having to tell people about my diagnoses. Every time, I find myself in a position where disclosure seems necessary, I am racked with the outcome or response. Two years after diagnosis, I have not actually found a comfortable way to talk about rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia in my life.

While I know that my current employer could deny me a promotion (if it came up) because of my diagnoses, they won’t necessarily admit because it would be a case of discrimination and any denial would be based on what they think is my inability to do the job. I never actually went out and told my current employers, it was something that came out in the course of doing my job and I have never shown anyone any reason to doubt my ability to do my job.

What about potential employers? I made a decision in my most recent interview to disclose RA and FMS despite the fact that I knew it may blow up in my face and cost me the position which by the way, I was not offered. From this experience, I have learned that it is a good idea not to disclose such information in an interview. Whether it played a part with this interviewer or not, such information does give a potential employer a reason not to hire you. The more I read up on the subject, the more I realize that if a disability is not noticeable, we should keep it to ourselves especially in a potential employer situation. The same applies to a current employer because it may affect your employer’s perception on your ability to do the job. Another issue that would bother a current employer is how often we visit the doctor. It seems like if you request a day off for an appointment that no one knows about, it is better than requesting one that everyone knows about.

I thought the disclosure about my conditions could be a good thing and now, I am not sure. Either way, I will never know. I now believe that disclosure during an interview is not a good idea because every employer, regardless of their situation, is concerned with the bottom line. Moreover, I sense that our problem, as sufferers, with disability or chronic pain conditions is a stigma we get as a result of the perceptions of society. It is a “catch 22” dilemma. If you talk about your pain or condition, you risk be perceived as chronic complainer or hypochondriac, and if you hide your pain, others do not believe the significance of your pain condition.

For me, I have learned that disclosure is not a good thing (I wish I had thought about that two weeks ago) and it is a lesson learned. My RA and FMS do not define me nor do they define my abilities and my abilities speak louder than my conditions. So, in the interest of learning from this experience, I won’t dwell on it and be better prepared the next time around. Experience is a good thing so the next time someone asks whether they should disclosure, I can provide my experience to them and let them make that decision for themselves.

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13 thoughts on “To disclose or not to disclose

  1. It is most definitely a Catch-22 situation. Part of me wants people to know as much as possible about RA so that we can do everything we can to educate them about this disease and work towards eradicating it, but how can you do that when you feel you have to hide it from others, something that I'm particularly struggling with right now when I'm without work…sigh.

  2. Sorry you didn't get the job :(.I've thought about this topic a lot, as my condition began when I'd been at my job about 8 months. There was no way for them not to find out, and they're really good about it – especially the many doctor's appointments. However, if I were to go into a new job I'm not sure what I'd do either. I know that my current employers knew me 'before' so they already knew I was hard working and good at what I do. Having RA has definitely shaken up my self confidence when it comes to career progression and unless I was fired, I'd have to think long and hard about a change of company.I wish you luck finding something soon.

  3. i tried that at my last work place and was happy to see that everyone was very supportive! but gradually i realised i had to constantly give explanations that i was fit to work…or fit to handle big matters…and thats when i felt it really wasnt such a good idea to disclose!i feel all of us, despite RA, work as hard as anyone else….and everyone else can too fall sick….sharing our problem with employers only puts us under more severe scrutiny, which is not something we need when we already have so much to handle!

  4. I have thought about this. I do not plan on leaving my job, however in todays economy with large companies having layoffs, having to look for another job is not completely out of the question. I had come to the same conclusion you originally did, that it would be better to disclose my RA. You bring up a very valid point. Employers look at the bottom line, a disease means more insurance costs, absences and time off for doctors visits. Sorry you didn't get the job, but thanks for sharing this with us. We all learn from each others experiences … good or bad.

  5. This is a tough call. I can see the potential employers concern that after training you may not work out due to the issue, but then you deserve a change just as much as anyone else and could turn out to be a great employee.

  6. I do like your blog, I must get back to mine and put you on my side bar.All I can say is 'I know how you feel' except that mine is noticable and I have given up on work for a little while due to home/health demands. You are so right about the catch 22 situation, one day I would like to do more to raise awareness.

  7. Thank you Squirrel. This is an issue that many of us have contemplated and for whatever, people (employers and coworkers) do not yet quite understand the advances in RA treatment (and fibromyalgia) had have recently changed the face of RA sufferers. They are no longer people are who disabled or unable to work. They are nothing different from other chronic illness sufferers (i.e. a diabetic) and they are able to do their jobs through management of their health. You are absolutely right Shweta. As sufferers, we have constantly have to prove ourselves. The scrutiny is always there. I always thought my arthritis advocacy work proved that I was just as fit as the healthiest person in my office but the only people that believe that are those who actually understand what it’s like living with my conditions.

  8. You are correct Terry. This market leaves many vulnerable so our safest bet is not to disclose our conditions. Even current employers, regardless of our seniority, still look at as unfit once we disclose, like you noted, insurance costs, absences, etc. I am, if anything, glad to have learned from this experience.

  9. Definitely a tough call Tracy but one that I have learned from. People are still uneducated about RA and autoimmune diseases. If they were, they would know that they are blind to the face of chronic illness. There are 80 people at my company. I honestly believe that at least 25% suffer from at one form of chronic illness. Moreover, I am not that any higher ups in the company can figure out exactly who that 25% is and I am sure there are partners and management that suffer as well so they should know better.

  10. Dee: A mistake on my part. I am really proud of my advocacy work and when I interviewed, I wanted to express that. That is where the disclosure part came in. Thank you Reasons. I appreciate your reading along. I am really thankful for everyone that follows because I would rather not talk to myself. 🙂 I want awareness more than anything but that need for awareness does not surpass my family’s need for me to work. There is another catch 22 situation and as much as we want awareness, we still have bills to pay.

  11. I'm sorry to hear that the interview didn't have a favorable outcome for you. Disclosure isn't a good idea, despite our desire to live in a better-educated world.

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